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USB port types and names

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USB (Universal Serial Bus) is an industry standard for connecting computers and other devices. It's available with many types of ports, and each type has a unique shape. On Mac computers, USB is available with these ports, depending on your Mac model:


Type USB-A ports are commonly called USB, USB 2, or USB 3 ports, depending on the USB specification they support. They aren't reversible, so a USB-A connector plugs into the port only when oriented correctly.

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Type USB-C ports are available as either standard USB-C ports or Thunderbolt 3 ports that also support USB-C connections. They both look the same, and the connector plugs into the port in either orientation.

Learn more about identifying the ports on your Mac, as well as the adapters and cables you can use to connect older devices to type USB-C ports.

USB specifications

USB specifications are important primarily when you want the most speed and power for your USB device, or your device needs more power or is using too much power. Every USB port supports a particular USB specification, which determines the port's maximum>USB specifications on MacData transferPowerUSB 3.1 Gen 2
Also known as USB 3.2 Gen 2
Up to 10 GbpsUp to 15W at 5VUSB 3.1 Gen 1
Also known as USB 3.2 Gen 1 or USB 3
Up to 5 GbpsUp to 900 mA at 5VUSB 2.0
Up to 480 MbpsUp to 500 mA at 5VUSB 1.1
Up to 12 MbpsUp to 500 mA at 5V

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To learn which specification is supported by a type USB-A or type USB-C port on your Mac model:

  • Choose Apple menu  > About This Mac, click Support, then click Specifications.
  • Check the System Information app for more details, including about USB devices connected to USB ports on your Mac. Select USB in the sidebar, then select a USB bus on the right.

Get the best performance from your USB devices

USB specifications all work with each other, but speed and power are limited by the cable or device that uses the earliest specification. For example, if you connect a USB 3 device to USB 2 port, your device is limited to USB 2 speeds, and it can't draw more power from the port than can be delivered over USB 2. In other words, to get the best performance, make sure that the USB port on your Mac and the USB cable to your device meet or exceed the USB specification of the device itself.

If your Mac doesn't recognize a USB device after you plug it into your Mac:

  • Check all connections: Unplug the device from your Mac, then plug it back in, and make sure that all cables and adapters are securely connected at both ends. Test with another cable or adapter, if available.
  • Plug the device directly into your Mac instead of a USB hub or other device, and if necessary test with a different USB port on your Mac or device.
  • Some devices need their own software, such as drivers or firmware. Others work without additional software. Check with the maker of your device, and install all available Apple software updates as well.
  • If your device came with an AC power adapter, use it. Some devices can be powered by the USB port on your Mac. Others need more power than your Mac can provide.
  • Restart your Mac.

Learn more

  • USB 3 devices can create wireless interference that affects Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices. Learn how to resolve Wi-Fi and Bluetooth issues caused by wireless interference.
  • Mac notebook computers with USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 can charge over that port using a compatible USB-C power adapter and cable.

USB to Gigabit Ethernet adapters are especially useful for adding faster wired network capability to otherwise WiFi-only machines like the Macbook Air.


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You can buy Apple’s branded 10/100 USB adapter — but price-wise, it will cost more than some gigabit adapters (like our Plugable USB Gigabit adapter). A gigabit adapter is also a nice upgrade for machines that only have a 10/100 ethernet port, but are connecting to a gigabit-capable network.

Because there’s often confusion about the rated speeds and actual throughput, especially when running 1000Mbps Ethernet over USB 2.0’s 480Mbps bus, we did some testing to establish a base line.

The test:

We installed the latest ASIX AX88178 Mac drivers for the Plugable Gigabit Adapter (currently v6.3.0). We used the open source network testing tool iperf running on a Mac Mini Server running 10.7.3 and a MacBook running 10.6.8. If you’d like to duplicate our tests, here’s a nice pre-compiled GUI version available here: JPerf-2.0.2.dmg. In order to isolate the adapters as completely as possible, we connected directly between two ethernet ports, set the address manually and ran iperf as both server and client in each direction. Remember that in order to get gigabit speeds, your entire network (including any routers in-between) need to be gigabit capable.

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The results:

PCI-Gigabit Ethernet
USB-to-Gigabit Ethernet (Plugable USB2-E1000)
USB 10/100 Ethernet
* send/receive speeds to a 2nd machine running PCI Gigabit Ethernet

These are low-level performance numbers (raw TCP/IP throughput). Real world throughput like copying a file over the network will be substantially lower due to transport overhead and any bottlenecks on the network or on either side of the transfer.

Using a tool like iperf and isolating the ethernet adapters to a direct connection establishes a base line for data speeds. To further identify potential networking bottlenecks, introduce one network component at a time and rerun your tests to see how the throughput is effected by the increasing complexity.

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For detailed instructions on installing Mac drivers for the Plugable USB2-E1000, see Howto: Installing ASIX’s USB Gigabit Ethernet Driver on Mac OS X Lion 10.7.

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We hope these numbers are useful to set performance expectations. Have any questions? We’d be happy to help. Reply here or email [email protected] anytime. Thanks!

Usb Over Ethernet


Ever wondered if an Apple USB to Ethernet adapter will work on a Windows laptop?

Well, the short answer is YES, but it does require a little work to get it setup.

Before going any further, let’s just clarify why we would even consider this. The general reason would be that the Wi-Fi connection you’re on isn’t working, isn’t reliable and/or is too slow to perform whatever task(s) you need to get done. You need a stable, reliable fast network connection so a wired connection is the way to go. Unfortunately, you don’t have a built-in Ethernet port on your laptop. Computer manufacturers, especially when it comes to slimmer and sleeker laptop models, will do away with a built-in Ethernet port in favor of wireless only or wireless with the option to use a USB to Ethernet dongle to establish a wired connection.

If you have a compatible USB to Ethernet dongle for your Windows laptop, you should use it. However, if you happen to be in a situation where you don’t have a compatible dongle but have access to an Apple USB to Ethernet adapter, you can potentially get it to work. That said, there are some prerequisites. First, you need to be running a 64-bit version of Windows 7, 8, or 10. Secondly, you need to have Internet access on a computer where you can download drivers and have a way to transfer those drivers onto the Windows laptop for which you will be connecting the Apple USB to Ethernet adapter. And lastly, you’ll need an Apple USB to Ethernet adapter.

If you meet all the prerequisites, you’ll need to download a version of Apple’s Boot Camp Support Software from the Apple website onto your Windows laptop. Once the .zip package is downloaded, extract the files to a location on your computer (ex: desktop). Go into the extracted folder and locate the “BootCamp” folder. Go into the “BootCamp” folder and locate the “Drivers” folder. Go into the “Drivers” folder and locate the “Asix” folder. Asix is the manufacturer of the driver software for the Apple USB to Ethernet adapter. Go into the “Asix” folder and run the “AsixSetup64” installer application/executable. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete the installation. You may be required to reboot your computer.

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Once the installation is complete, you should be able to connect the Apple USB to Ethernet adapter to an available USB 2.0 or higher port on your Windows laptop. The Windows 64-bit operating system should be able to detect the hardware and install the appropriate driver for the adapter. Alternatively, if you are having problems getting the Apple USB to Ethernet adapter working using the “AsixSetup64” installer from the Boot Camp Support package, you can try downloading a driver directly from the manufacturer’s (Asix) website. Asix does have various drivers for various versions of the USB to Ethernet adapter so you may need to do a little trial and error.

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